There are a couple of clips from the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life that reminds me of the importance of choosing joy. In the first, we find a man named George overwhelmed and in desperation. He’s contemplating ending it all until an angel comes to save him from making a terrible choice. In the movie, George’s guardian angel shows him what life would be like if he had never been born. In the second clip, we find George in the same circumstances but joyfully celebrating. What has made the difference? In the latter clip, George chooses joy! Joy is not determined by our circumstances. Wonderful joy comes when empowered by God, we choose it.
We discover a terrific example of this in the Christmas account. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter one, Mary is told that she will give birth to the messiah. How many of us would be filled with questions upon hearing such news? She was too. She is told that the God of the impossible will do this great work in her. Mary is faced with a choice. How will she choose to respond to this news? How will she choose to react to this circumstance in which she finds herself? Mary declares: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). This is quite a response. This is tremendous faith in such a circumstance. Mary’s humble willingness to choose to trust God is a model of trust for all of us. Mary’s trust in God fills her with joy. Further, in the account, we discover that Mary is filled with joy, along with her relative Elizabeth, as they acknowledge the amazing workings of the Lord. Mary chose joy.
How do we choose joy? We choose joy by trusting when we are tempted to doubt. Feed your faith and doubt will starve to death. We find this exhortation in the book of Isaiah: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (Isa 26:4). This verse declares that God is a rock. The image of a rock is a common metaphor for God in biblical poetry. Here, the picture is of God’s trustworthiness. Trusting is what a believer does because of their faith in God. What does such trust look like? It looks like Mary declaring she was the Lord’s servant, believing God is true to His Word, and yielding to Him. We choose joy by asking God to give us the strength to trust Him in all circumstances. After all, this is the victorious life we are offered in Christ…trusting God no matter our circumstances.
There is another choice we make in choosing joy. We choose joy by celebrating when we are tempted to fear. Over and over again in the Bible, we are told not to fear. Fear is an uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of a future where God is not present and working for our good. In other words, fear believes evil will prevail. Paul teaches us in Romans: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God causes “all things” to work for the spiritual “good” and ultimate salvation of those who respond to Him in love. Nothing can hurt God’s people so deeply that He cannot turn it around for their good. God does not want to scare us into faith. He draws near to us and calls us to “Cast our cares upon Him as He cares for us” (see: Psa 55:22). We can celebrate when we are tempted to fear by realizing that God’s power and love are greater than whatever we are tempted to fear.
We can choose joy! We choose joy by trusting when we are tempted to doubt and celebrating when we are tempted to fear. After all, Jesus says to us: “In this world you will experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (Jn 16:33b). God wants us to know that He’s going to take care of us no matter what happens. No matter what you go through, you can whisper this simple truth: “Jesus is with me.” Think about it. Christ is with you in your greatest victories and in your most humiliating defeats. Jesus is with you at all times and in all things. May these words, recorded in 1 Peter, rings true in your heart: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We find wonderful joy in Christ!
It is my privilege to bask in Christ’s joy with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to choose joy. Let’s decide to trust and celebrate rather than give in to doubts and fear. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!